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Grammatical Categories of the Verbals

In OE there were two non-finite forms of the verb: the Infinitive and the Participle. In many respects they were closer to the nouns and adjectives than to the finite verb; their nominal features were far more obvious than their verbal features, especially at the morphological level. The verbal nature of the Infinitive and the Participle was revealed in some of their functions and in their syntactic "combinability": like finite forms they could take direct objects and be modified by adverbs.

The forms of the two participles were strictly differentiated. P I was formed from the Present tense stem (the Infinitive without the endings -an, -ian) with the help of the suffix -ende. P II had a stem of its own — in strong verbs it was marked by a certain grade of the root-vowel interchange and by the suffix -en; with weak verbs it ended in -d/-t. P II was commonly marked by the prefix ge-, though it could also occur without it, especially if the verb had other word-building prefixes.

Infinitive Participle I Participle II (NE bindan bindende gebunden bind)

Morphological Classification of Verbs

The conjugation of verbs shows the means of form-building used in the OE verb system. Most forms were distinguished with the help of inflectional endings or grammatical suffixes; one form — P II — was sometimes marked by a prefix; many verbs made use of vowel interchanges in the root; some verbs used consonant interchanges and a few had suppletive forms. The OE verb is remarkable for its complicated morphological classification which determined the application of form-building means in various groups of verbs. The majority of OE verbs fell into two great divisions: the strong verbs and the weak verbs. Besides these two main groups there were a few verbs which could be put together as "minor" groups. The main difference between the strong and weak verbs lay in the means of forming the principal parts, or the "stems" of the verb. There were also a few other differences in the conjugations.

All the forms of the verb, finite as well as non-finite, were derived from a set of "stems" or principal parts of the verb: the Present tense stem was used in all the Present tense forms, Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive, and also in the Present Participle and the Infinitive; it is usually shown as the form of the Infinitive; all the forms of the Past tense were derived from the Past tense stems; the Past Participle had a separate stem.

The strong verbs formed their stems by means of vowel gradation (ablaut) and by adding certain suffixes; in some verbs vowel gradation was accompanied by consonant interchanges. The strong verbs had four stems, as they distinguished two stems in the Past Tense – one for the 1 st and 3rd p. Ind. Mood, the other — for the other Past tense forms, Ind. and Subj.

The weak verbs derived their Past tense stem and the stem of Participle II from the Present tense stem with the help of the dental suffix -d- or -t- normally they did not change their root vowel, but in some verbs suffixation was accompanied by a vowel interchange.

The Past tense stem of the weak verbs is the form of the 1st and 3rd p. sg; the pl locodon is formed from the same stem with the help of the plural ending -on). The same ending marks the Past pl of strong verbs.

Both the strong and the weak verbs are further subdivided into a number of morphological classes with some modifications in the main form-building devices.

Minor groups of verbs differed from the weak and strong verbs but were not homogeneous either. Some of them combined certain features of the strong and weak verbs in a peculiar way ("preterite-present" verbs); others were suppletive or altogether anomalous. The following chart gives a general idea of the morphological classification of OE verbs.

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